Module Eight: Discussions in the Classroom
Discussions in the ClassroomDiscussions are often used as a mechanism for exploring the different perceptions and understandings of the participating population while developing students’ critical thinking skills. Gall and Gall (1976) defined discussion as “a method of teaching in which (1) a group of persons, usually in the roles of moderator- leader and participant, (2) assembles at a designated time and place, (3) to communicate interactively, (4) using speaking, nonverbal, and listening processes, (5) in order to achieve instructional objectives” (p. 168-169).

In the face-to-face classroom, the discussion format is synchronous and usually instructor led. This format offers instructors a just-in-time look at the understandings of their students on the information under discussion. In the face-to-face setting, levels of student participation can be negatively impacted by the students' personality. Students may be timid about speaking out in a public forum or be hesitant about providing the "wrong" response. Occasionally classroom discussions can be overpowered by the more vocal students who dominate the conversation. When conducting a discussion in the face-to-face classroom instructors should first select a discussion format that best addresses the goals and instructional objectives of the discussion and then provide the students with appropriate guidelines for participation in the discussion. A variety of discussion formats can be used in both large and small group situations.

Discussion Formats

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Circle of Voices

Critical Debate


Posted Dialogues

Rotating Stations



Three-Step Interview

Numbered Heads Together


Generating Truth Statements


  • Brookfield, Stephen, 2006, Discussion as a Way of Teaching.  Retrieved July 24, 2012 from

  • The Center for Teaching and Learning. Stanford University, Speaking of Teaching.  Retrieved July 24, 2012 from

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